This is DD’s birth story, which is a story of a little girl who came right on schedule, on the afternoon of her due date: Wednesday, August 6th. This will either prove to be a prophecy or a burden, depending on whether or not she is a punctual person throughout life. Regardless, I will always remind her of how she came right on time and was very easy on her mother that wonderful day.
Tuesday, August 5th was not such a good day. It was very hot outside, and I was incredibly grumpy and tense. I had to go and pick up a campus parking pass that morning, and was kept waiting forever. After being told that I didn’t have the right documents when I did, I ended up barking at the woman that I was due to have a baby the next day and didn’t have time for her incompetence. Needless to say, I was not in a great mood. Around 5:00 pm that afternoon, I went to the bathroom and saw part of my mucous plug. I was a little crampy and felt like something was going to happen soon. I called my Mom, who called my Aunt – she said that after losing her plug, she had each of her four children within 24 hours. So I was pretty confident that it was going to happen soon. I had a huge craving for Korean food and we headed out to our favorite place with my best friend. I threw a fit after we found it closed and we ended up at another Korean/Japanese place, which simply does not meet my standard. I complained about it throughout dinner, fought with the waiter about the fact that they charge for their side dishes, and criticized pretty much everything - not my usual style. We went home, I slept for a little while, and was woken up around midnight by mild contractions. I knew it was time, and I like to think that the Korean food, which was actually pretty decent despite my protests, helped bring on labor.
From the first hours of Wednesday, August 6th, my contractions came on pretty slowly and I was able to take little naps between them, waking to note the time and their duration. I probably woke up for good around 4:00 am and started getting ready; I cleaned the kitchen, organized the house, and kept noting my increasingly frequent and uncomfortable contractions. At this point, they were still quite bearable, like a mild stomach flu or cramps, but coming faster and faster. By 7:00 am or so, they were already five minutes apart and I put a call into our midwife’s after-hours line as instructed. I woke up DH, told him to get ready, and waited for them to return my call. To my disgust, that took over an hour – it was 8:30 am, after the office had opened, when the nurse finally got back to me. Despite the fact that I was definitely ready to go by textbook standards, she brushed me off, reassuring me that “oh don’t worry, first babies will take at least 12 hours.” Yeah right! We would certainly prove her wrong…
However, since they obviously felt there was no hurry whatsoever, they had us come into their office – a 20 minute drive to a neighboring town, versus the 2 minutes to the hospital, which was three blocks from our apartment. I was highly annoyed about this on the way there, but looking back at least we were smart enough to bring our bags along. Once we arrived at their office, I had to wait an eternity, it seemed, for them to hook me up to their machine to do a stress test and measure my contractions. By this time they were getting extremely uncomfortable, and I was desperate for some kind of news. It wasn’t until 10:30 am that our midwife finally examined me, and told me that I was dilated almost 5 cm. DH and I were like: Wow, you don’t say? We TOLD YOU that this baby is on the way!
Our midwife predicted that the baby would arrive by 5:00 pm that afternoon and sent us straight to the hospital. Good thing we had our bags, right? We stopped at McDonald’s on the way so that I could get some food in me (cheeseburger, fries, and a coke, I think), and on the way I called all of the main people to tell them the news. During the drive, I was contracting quite painfully and writhing about in my seat, but everything was still manageable.
We got to the hospital at 11:00 am and were checked into our birthing suite by 11:30 am. We had several random people come in, since our midwife was stuck in the office that day and we would have a fill-in doctor from another practice deliver. I was also annoyed about this, but we had been warned ahead of time and it soon became rather trivial for me. At one point I remember a rough examination by an intern, who immediately asked when I wanted my epidural. Luckily our nurse was very cool with the natural birthing process and chimed in for me anytime that question came up. One more intern, some really young guy, came in after that and the whole exchange was quite awkward, but I think everyone finally read my birth plan (which stated that we didn’t want any interns or observers - or any pain meds, of course) and we didn’t see anyone except our nurse and the stand-in doctor, Dr. B, from that point on. She actually only checked in on me once or twice in the first hours of labor to check my progress, and I found her extremely shrill, annoying and rude. Luckily, those traits would actually end up working for me during the last stage of labor – for some reason her attitude really helped me focus at the end, but I despised her at first. Luckily I didn’t have much time to focus on that.
Our doula arrived around 12:30 pm and I was already in the jacuzzi bathtub for the first time. I talked to my SIL at one point around that time, and that’s the last I remember being really conscious of anything else. By 1:30 pm, the contractions had become extremely painful and everything from there on out is a blur. I had hard, painful back labor (at least that was where the pain was) for roughly three hours. Until about 4:30 pm, I don’t remember much: DH and the doula took turns rubbing my back, putting a hot compress on, and reassuring me. I would be extremely hot and beg for a cold press on my forehead, and then a few minutes later begin shivering with cold and ask to be covered in blankets. I definitely felt nauseous at times and tried to throw up, but didn’t. I was pacing for awhile, leaving trails of blood and the other delights of labor all over the place, but then ended up perched on the birth ball at the end of the delivery bed, with my face in a pillow for much of the time. I would NOT let DH or our doula take their hands off of my lower back for a second – it really made a huge difference, although the pain was still pretty unbearable. Lucky for both of them, they could take turns. I tried to go to the bathroom several times, sat in the Jacuzzi tub once or twice more, and began begging for medicine at some point toward the end. I also remember telling DH that this was our last baby and I wasn’t going to do it again.
Luckily they didn’t let me give into the meds – it was too late anyway, they told me, since I was dilating very quickly and the worst was almost over. I was in the third stage of labor at this point, and the contractions just kept hitting me harder and harder. It was definitely hellish, but I was already in the zone and was blessed to have it last for such a short time. Finally it was time to push. But that was the worst part for me, mentally, because I did not feel that the baby was coming down and couldn’t imagine that pushing was going to work. I truly believed it was going to be impossible to get the baby out at that point and remember have thoughts of “I simply can’t do this anymore” and “we’re going to have to do a c-section” flash through my head. But they made me get on the bed and started to coach me through it.
Dr. B came in (and somehow managed to reassure me with her obnoxious, somewhat condescending tone), told me I was fully dilated, and everyone gathered around me to help push. DH was by my head, holding a washcloth on it, I think, and the nurse and our doula each had one knee. At first I was not doing well and they kept telling me to “keep my chin down” and push “the right way,” but it must have started to work after a few minutes because they told me they could see her head with lots of hair. I still didn’t feel anything, though – no sensation of her coming down or out – and didn’t really believe them. Although looking back I am sure that it must have hurt like hell, I think I was pretty numb to the sensation at that point. The pain was entirely in my head and chest, which felt like it would burst from the pushing, and it was still really hard for me to believe that the baby was actually on its way.
FINALLY, I felt her coming through – there was a slight burning sensation when she crowned – and then DD just popped out (literally, that’s exactly what it felt like) at 5:18 pm. Pushing went incredibly fast, only taking a total of 45 minutes. After she came, I had to keep pushing the placenta and other junk out, but within a few second they put her on my stomach and I felt her warm, slimy body wriggling around. I was in a complete daze still, and actually said “wow, that’s so creepy” instead of some joyous statement. But then they wiped her off, brought her up in my arms, and I was able to get a look at her cute, scrunched up little face and blinking eyes for the first time. I don’t remember her crying – she may have only done so for a second when they pulled her out. DH got to see her head come out first, and remembers her little dark eyes looking around when the Doctor turned her around and pulled the rest of her body out. She was definitely very alert and taking it all in.
While I was holding her, Dr. B had to give me a few stitches for some tears but I was still numb from the adrenaline and it didn’t really hurt. At one point the nurse helped DD try to breastfeed for the first time, which we have a picture of, and then they took care of the shots, the bracelet, etc. and wrapped her up in a blanket. Around 6:00 pm or so, we finally remembered to call my parents, who had anxiously been waiting with my best friend in the lounge all afternoon, and they came up to our room immediately. We took pictures, marveled at how much she looked like DH , and got ready to move upstairs. For some reason I remember a conversation about how hungry my mom was, then they made plans to go to Red Lobster and quickly departed.
We moved to the recovery room soon after that, and that was the first time since we checked in that I had left the birthing room. The room was empty, so DH was able to stay in the other bed. I was starving and remember gulping down cold apple juice on ice (which now has a mythical, comforting quality) and a sandwich.
DD was able to nurse immediately and we were surprised at how quiet she was – she didn’t cry much, just had a very curious look on her face. Everyone marveled at how tall she was for such a small body – 21 inches, 7.14 pounds. Her legs and arms seemed very long for her body, and she had big feet and hands. She had black curly hair and very dark eyes. From the beginning, she was constantly sucking and making kissing noises with her big soft, round lips.
We stayed in the hospital until Friday morning, and I very fondly remember the time there as blissful. The first night, she had a chill so they kept her in the nursery and brought her to me every two hours to nurse. I was able to get some sleep and was wide awake in the morning, showered and ready for guests – several friends and relatives stopped by. Unfortunately, I also found out that my grandmother had passed away over night, and I had to take some time to process that news along with everything else. For that reason, I would not see my parents again until the next day.
DD was able to move to our room by that morning, and Kamesh and I took turns watching her, changing her, and holding her. She seemed so tiny and fragile. I seemed to get a hang of nursing and she spent much of the sunny afternoon sleeping on my stomach. The nurses were wonderful and I felt very supported, safe, and relaxed. My pain was not too bad, and I had tons of adrenaline from the birth for weeks afterwards. For the first few weeks, I wasn’t able to sleep much and would laugh at DD's adorable little face every time she nursed. Her head was tiny compared to my giant breasts, and it’s a picture I will never forget.
I felt very blessed to have such a quick and - looking back - relatively easy labor. Yes, it was painful but it was bearable and something that I am glad that I experienced - pain makes you feel alive! And the benefit - being so alert and pumped up with natural adrenaline - really helped me enjoy those first weeks of motherhood and I still have very vivid memories. Overall, our hospital birth was exactly what we had hoped for and we were pleasantly surprised by the support we received.
Angela, loving wife and mother of DD, born 8/6/2008.